After it was almost clear after 9th meeting of GST Council that GST may now be implemented from July, 2017 only, at the earliest, all eyes were on the Union Budget 2017-18 which has since been presented in the Parliament of India on 1st February, 2017.
Only time will tell us whether it is the last Budget for Service Tax, Central Excise and Central Sales Tax and that whether fiscal 2017-18 is going to be the historic year of transition to biggest ever indirect tax reform in Indian economic space.
There were expectations, and obviously, that Budget may dwell upon GST in detail and pave a way for implementation of GST. Though no clear road map for GST to be in place has been made or announced, there are number of indications which assure us that GST will come, in any case by September, 2017.
GST related Budget Highlights
a) No clear cut road map laid
b) Acknowledges Constitutional Amendment unanimously
c) Acknowledges State Government’s role in resolving issues in GSTC
d) 9 meetings of GSTC so far, 10th one proposed on 18th February, 2017.
e) Preparation of IT System for GST on schedule
f) Substantial progress on GST front
g) Reach out efforts for trade and industry to make them aware about GST to start from 1st April 2017.
h) GSTN (IT system for GST) will be ready as per schedule
i) CBEC for implementation of GST as per schedule without compromising on spirit of co-operation federations.
j) GST likely to bring more taxes to Centre and States because widening of tax base.
k) Not many changes in current central excise and Service Tax regime as these will be replaced soon by GST
l) No change in tax rates of excise duty as well as service tax.
m) Abolishment of R & D cess is in allignment with GST
The present Budget is focused on TEC, i.e., transform, energize and clean India which contains measures for stimulating growth, digital economy and ease of doing business. It also seeks to facilitate RAPID, i.e., Revenue, Accountability, Probity, Information and Digitalization. There are number of clues on goods and services tax but without any assurance on implementation schedule.
Finance Minister in his Budget speech only stated that he does not propose many change in Service Tax and Central Excise as these will soon be replaced by goods and Service Tax.
In his speech, Finance Minister stated that in the last one year, our country has witnessed historic and impactful economic reforms and policy making. In fact, India was one of the very few economies undertaking transformational reforms. There were two tectonic policy initiatives, namely, passage of the Constitution Amendment Bill for GST and the progress for its implementation and demonetisation of high denomination bank notes. The advantages of GST for our economy in terms of spurring growth, competitiveness, indirect tax simplification and greater transparency have already been extensively discussed in both Houses of Parliament.
There has been substantial progress towards ushering in GST, by far, the biggest tax reform since independence. Since the enactment of the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016, the preparatory work for this path-breaking reform has been a top priority for the Government. In this context, several teams of officers both from the States and Central Board of Excise and Customs have been working tirelessly to give finishing touch to the Model GST law and rules and other details. Government on its part has promptly given effect to various provisions of the Constitutional Amendment Act, including constitution of the GST Council. Since then, the GST Council held 9 meetings to discuss various issues relating to GST, including broad contours of the GST rate structure, threshold exemption and parameters for composition scheme, details for compensation to States due to implementation of GST, examination of draft model GST law, draft IGST law and the Compensation Law and administrative mechanism for GST. It is my privilege to inform this august house that the GST Council has finalised its recommendations on almost all the issues based on consensus and after spirited debate and discussions. The preparation of IT system for GST is also on schedule. The extensive reach-out efforts to trade and industry for GST will start from 1st April, 2017 to make them aware of the new taxation system.
Centre, through the Central Board of Excise & Customs, shall continue to strive to achieve the goal of implementation of GST as per schedule without compromising the spirit of co-operative federalism. Implementation of GST is likely to bring more taxes both to Central and State Governments because of widening of tax net. I have preferred not to make many changes in current regime of Excise & Service Tax because the same are to be replaced by GST soon.
The fact that there is no change proposed for tax rates only indicates the confidence of Government that it will be in a position to roll out GST from July and as such it has not tinkered with tax rates, just for a period of three months. However, the Budget has estimated a revenue collection of as Rs. 2,75,000 crore for financial year 2017-18 as against a revised estimate of Rs. 2,47,500 crore and not just for three months.